Epson SureColor SC-P906
Epson’s SC-P906 is an excellent printer and a worthy successor to the P800 and 3880 models that came before it.
For newcomers to large format photo printing, the P906 has a lot going for it; hence our Recommended rating. It’s straightforward to operate, relatively compact and looks good on a desktop (although the shiny top cover is prone to finger-marking).
The SureColor SC-P906 replaces the SureColor P800 as the latest model in Epson’s A2 desktop printer range for serious enthusiasts and professional photographers, which goes back 15 years to the Stylus Pro 3800. Improving on previous models, the P906 has a footprint 30% smaller than the previous model and introduces a new 10-channel MicroPiezo AMC printhead with separate channels for Photo and Matte Black ink types plus an updated UltraChrome PRO10 pigment ink set with an expanded colour gamut. A new print driver mode – Carbon Black –increases D-max by up to 5 percent to claim best-in-class black density coupled with reduced bronzing and gloss differential on glossy papers.
Angled view of the SureColor SC-P906 in use. (Source: Epson.)
Epson also supplied the C12C811431 roll paper support unit to complete the package and enable us to test the printer’s full capabilities. High-volume users like professional photographers who print their own work should consider buying this unit with the printer, particularly if it’s bundled at a competitive price.
Unlike the previous model, the SC-P906 ships with a complete set of full-capacity ink cartridges as well as a spare maintenance box (additional to the one installed in the printer). Purchasers will need the latter as we found the installed box fills up rapidly during the setup process for this printer.
What’s in a Name?
While it goes by the name SureColor SC-P906 in Australia and New Zealand, in most of the rest of the world this printer is known as the SureColor SC-P900 (its ‘little brother’ is the P700). We don’t know why Epson decided to use a different product name for our region but it has created a lot of potential (and real) issues for buyers of these printers since most of the information available for these printers carries their Northern Hemisphere labelling.
It also seems illogical, since the instructions leaflets packed with the printer and maintenance box come in 33 different languages. From a practical viewpoint, if you want to find third-party paper profiles for either printer, use the P900 or P700 names in your searches (but don’t expect them to be available for all media). The same applies when searching for drivers and instruction sheets and manuals.
Note to manufacturers: Global uniformity in product naming saves time and reduces stress for buyers wherever in the world they live.
Following in the footsteps of the popular Stylus Pro 3880 and SureColor P800 the SC-P906 introduces yet another ink set plus some design adjustments that may – or may not – be appreciated. The table below compares the SC-P906 with its predecessor, the SC-P800.
|Ink type||Pigment ink|
|Print head||Epson Micro Piezo, Uni and Bi-directional modes|
|Resolution||5760 x 1440 optimised dpi||2880 x 1440 dpi|
|Minimum droplet size||1.5 picolitres||3.5 picolitres (Variable Droplet Technology)|
|Max paper width||431.8 mm with optional roll paper holder|
|Max. paper thickness||Regular sheet feeder – 0.50 mm; Front Thick Paper Path – 0.5 to 0.7 mm; Front Straight Path – 0.7 to 1.5 mm; Roll Paper Path – 0.08 to 0.70 mm||Regular sheet feeder – 0.70mm Front feeder – 0.70-1.5mm
Roll Paper Path 0.25-0.70mm
|Roll paper support||Yes with optional paper holder|
|Optical disc printing||Yes, on inkjet printable 8cm and 12cm CD-Rs and DVDs||No|
|Ink cartridges||MK, PK, GY, LGY, C, VM, LC, VLM, Y, V||MK, PK, LK, LLK, C, VM, Y, LC, VLM|
|Cartridge capacity||50 ml||80 ml (ships with a starter set of 64 ml cartridges)|
|Separate Matte/Photo Black channels||Yes||No|
|Control panel||4.3-inch Touchscreen Colour LCD||2.5-inch colour LCD with gesture control|
|Interfaces||Hi-Speed USB 3.0, Ethernet 10Base-T / 100Base-TX, Wi-Fi 5 (IEEE802.11 b/g/n/ac), Wi-Fi Direct, direct printing to mobile devices via Epson Print Layout app||Hi-Speed USB, Ethernet (10BASE-T/100BASE – TX), Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11 Bb/g/n), Wi-Fi Direct, Epson iPrint, Mobile App, Apple Airprint, Google Cloud Print|
|Power consumption||24W Operating / 1.1W Sleep / 0.18W Off||21W operating, 1.2W standby, 0.5W sleep|
|Acoustic noise||Approx. 41 dB||Approx. 49.6dB|
|Dimensions (wxhxd)||615 x 199 x 368mm (closed); 615 x 902 x 520mm (in use)||684 x 376 x 250 mm (closed); 684 x 769 x 286 mm (open with roll paper unit)|
|Weight (without inks)||14.7 kg||19.5 kg|
|RRP of ink cartridges||$59.95||$94.95|
|RRP on release||AU$1995||AU$2195|
|Roll paper holder||AU$299||AU$249|
Running your eye down the comparative specifications of the two printers reveals some interesting data. The first thing you notice is the higher resolution in the new model, which is probably due to new 10-channel MicroPiezo print head, which has dedicated matte and photo black channels so there’s no need to switch black inks when swapping between glossy and matte media, a bone of contention with previous models.
Like previous models, this new print head uses VSDT (Variable Size Droplet Technology) but it can deliver much smaller ink droplets; 1.5 picolitres compared with 3.5 picolitres for the P800. It also includes Epson’s proven Precision Dot Technology, which produces prints with less graininess and smoother gradations.
The new UltraChrome PRO10 pigment ink set adds a Violet cartridge to expand the available colour gamut and deliver richer, more vibrant colours. The popular Advanced Black and White Mode for monochrome printing has been revised for creating professional black and white photographs, with four pre-set modes – neutral, warm, cool and sepia – plus the ability to save customised settings for future use and preview images when working in the optional downloadable Epson Print Layout software.
Because pigment inks sit on the paper surface and may be deposited at varying heights (depending on their density) Epson has also introduced a Carbon Black Mode that uses the 1.5pl droplet size in the richest black areas to achieve a smoother surface. According to Epson, smaller droplets also make light reflect in a consistent direction, increasing Dmax by up to 11%.
A new Black Enhance Overcoat print mode, which is applied by default when glossy and semi-gloss media are used, reduces metamerism and gloss differential in dark areas and produces richer blacks, better contrast and better tonality with darker tones of black by overcoating the black with grey. Note that this mode requires larger margins around the edges of the print.
Reducing the droplet size should also reduce ink consumption, which may justify the reduction in the capacity of the ink cartridges to only 50 ml, whereas those for the P800 hold 80 ml. Red River Paper has done a running cost comparison for Epson’s R1900 and R2400 printers, which have minimum droplet sizes of 1.5 picolitres and 3.5 picolitres, respectively. They found the R1900 (1.5 pl) consumed 28% less ink than the R2400 (3.5 pl). Click here for details.
Smaller cartridges have also enabled a smaller footprint for the printer; Epson claims a 30% reduction on the previous model. However, the P906 has a much larger, 4.3-inch touch-screen control panel, which can be flipped up for easier viewing. It includes a keypad and supports gesture navigation and is also customisable making it easier to use.
The printer also features a new interior LED light that enables users to watch the progress of a print as it passes under the moving print head. As well as being fun to watch for a while, it has the useful feature of enabling users to see where the ink is being laid down and, thus predicting approximately how much longer the printer will take to deliver the print.
This photograph of the printer shows the slatted output and support pull-outs. (Source: Epson.)
Another nice feature is the slatted output trays and pull-up rear paper supports. Not only do they keep the printer’s overall weight down, they’re much less likely to be dust traps – which is a thoroughly good thing!
Power consumption is a mixed bag, although the P906 uses a little more energy in both operating and sleep modes. The new printer is also quieter than its predecessor when it’s running. Its RRP is also lower, in part because of the lower-capacity cartridges, which are roughly 30% cheaper.
Who’s it For?
Like its predecessors, the P906 is designed for photographers, graphic designers, fine art producers and illustrators who require high quality output at relatively low volumes plus versatility in operation. It will also satisfy the needs of archivists, thanks to its permanence ratings of up to 200 years for colour prints and up to 400 years for B&W prints. Prints framed behind UV-absorbing acrylic and those displayed under LED illumination are expected to achieve significantly higher ratings.
Designed primarily for A2 size (420 x 594 mm) media, the P906 can accept smaller cut sheet media size and also includes a Custom setting that can output prints up to 1.5 metres long. The optional, fully enclosed roll media holder supports rolls with 2-inch and 3-inch cores and enables roll printing up to 18 metres long. (Manual cutting is required.)
Bizarrely, Epson provides virtually NO information on this important accessory on its Australian website – and a search of its international websites as well as those of re-sellers – is similarly uninformative. Unlike the optional roll paper holder for the P800, the roll paper holder is powered, which means it pushes the paper through the printer, aided by the normal paper feed mechanism.
The P906 has a larger, customisable touch screen and upgraded wireless connectivity, which includes 5GHz support will expand the options for using the new printer. While most users are likely to operate it via a computer interface, an updated mobile version of Epson Print Layout software provides support and colour management tools for iPhone and iPad printing, enabling direct printing from iOS devices. The P906 can link automatically with Windows 10 computers via Wi-Fi and is also compatible with a wide range of design, production, workflow management and RIP software. We didn’t test these features.
What’s in the box?
The SC-P906 printer comes in a box measuring 742 x 475 x 368 mm and weighing approximately 19 kg. It also contains a plastic tray for printing on coated optical disks (CD or DVD) plus an initial set of 10 cartridges plus an initial maintenance box to mop up any stray ink droplets that are dispersed during setup and initial printing and a spare maintenance box. A 2-pin figure 8 power cord is also provided; but not a USB cable (USB 3.0 is supported).
Three multi-lingual printed guides are provided, covering printer setup, software installation and a guide to the symbol icons used on the product. There’s also a document advising users to register the printer plus another with a bonus offer for doing so. The final sheet has diagrams showing the correct way to install the ink cartridges.
The software CD contains the User Manual, Printer Driver and ‘utility’ software (Print CD, EpsonNet Config, EpsonNet Setup, EpsonNet Print, Software Updater and Firmware updater). Epson Print Layout, ColorBase2, Epson Media Installer, Photo+, E-Web Print, Firmware Updater & software uninstaller software can be downloaded via web download.
The SC-P906 is very well packaged in a large cardboard box with pieces of moulded Styrofoam and strips of brown cardboard preventing it from moving during transit. On top of the cardboard is a folder containing the instruction sheets and a plastic bag containing the DC/DVD printing tray and software CD.
Opening the box shows the secure packaging that protects the printer.
The initial set of ink cartridges is located in a separate box below this folder, with each cartridge sealed in itsw own plastic bag.
The supplied cartridges are packed in their own special box, which sits above the printer.
The printer is located below the remaining packaging, sealed inside a plastic bag (which is NOT strong enough to support the weight of the printer).
The printer should be lifted from the box while still contained in its plastic bag, which can be removed by cutting the sealing tape and easing it away from the printer once it’s on the desk.
Make sure you allow adequate space around the printer to allow the passage of prints as they are produced. The illustration below shows the height and depth dimension when it is fitted with the C12C811431 roll paper support unit.
Side view of the SC-P906 showing key dimensions. (Source: Epson.)
As usual, a lot of strips of blue sticky tape (we counted around 40) and several sheets of plastic must be removed before you can move onto the next steps, which involve installing the ink tanks and connecting the printer to mains power and your computer. The printer comes with a maintenance box pre-installed.
A shot showing the packaging blue tape that maintains the printer’s physical integrity during transport.
Once you’ve set up the printer on your desk, you can connect the mains power and switch it on. The next steps are carried out via the LCD control panel, which has a touch-screen interface. You’ll be asked to input the date, after which the initialisation process will begin and you can start to install the ink cartridges.
Setting the date is easy thanks to the touch-screen menu.
The cartridges must be handled carefully to avoid touching the chips that interface with the printer. Colour coded and labelled slots are provided to make sure each cartridge is correctly installed.
The control panel menu provides a setting that shows you how to install the ink cartridges.
In order to check their ink capacity and estimate the amount of ink that is used to prime the feeder lines, we weighed each of the supplied cartridges before installing it and again when it became depleted. We also recorded the weight of each new cartridge before we replaced a depleted cartridge.
The relevant data is shown in the table below.
|Ink colour||Weight on installation||Weight when depleted||New tank weight|
|MK||122 grams||74 grams||122 grams|
|PK||123 grams||69 grams||122 grams|
|GY||121 grams||75 grams||122 grams|
|LGY||123 grams||69 grams||123 grams|
|C||123 grams||76 grams||121 grams|
|VM||123 grams||75grams||123 grams|
|LC||122 grams||69 grams||122 grams|
|LVM||122 grams||70 grams||122 grams|
|Y||123 grams||74 grams||121 grams|
|V||122 grams||Not depleted|
This confirmed the printer is supplied with full-capacity (50 ml) cartridges, while weighing the maintenance box immediately after the setup had been completed and comparing it with the weight of a new box supplied with the printer. The empty box weighed 93 grams, while full box weighed 375 grams showing it had taken up 282 grams of fluid.
The ink status display on the printer’s control panel when all cartridges had been installed. Note that roughly two thirds of the ink in each cartridge was used up during the setup process.
This represents a bit over half of the total ink volume the printer can hold, although the initial ink monitor display (shown above) indicated only about one third of the ink remained available. This reduction in the ink levels seems very prodigal in the current environment, although Epson has confirmed the ink lines are been filled with fluid to protect them during transit. This could account for some of the fluid that ended up in the maintenance box, although the monitor displays on the printer and on the ink monitor suggest a lot of ink was used up just to set up the printer.
The control panel display during the initialisation process.
When all the cartridges have been installed you must close the front and printer covers. This triggers the initialisation process, which will begin when you touch OK on the screen. The process takes about 15 minutes, during which the printer must be left to ‘do its own thing’.
This display shows the printer is ready for use.
The printer is now ready for use and the screen will display a ‘ready’ message. The next steps will depend upon how the printer is connected to the device with the images you want to print. The rest of the process is carried out through the device interface (the driver in the case of a computer).
Changing ink cartridges is straightforward; you simply remove the new cartridge from its packaging, give it a couple of vigorous shakes to mobilise the ink, pull out the depleted cartridge and push the new one in. The printer’s control panel will let you know if you haven’t done it properly (e.g. if the new cartridge hasn’t been ‘seated’).
Changing the maintenance box is just as easy. Like the ink cartridges, it comes in a sealed plastic bag inside a box that also contains a sheet printed with multi-lingual ‘Precautions’ with respect to the contents. Graphics on the outside of the box show how it should be installed. (There’s not much useful information in the user manual about this task.)
The SC-P906 provides three main feed paths. For most printing on sheet paper the rear paper feeder is used. This path can accept stacks of up to 10 sheets of Premium Glossy (or similar weight) paper, although you can load more sheets of plain office paper while heavier media will require single-sheet feeding. Be guided by the control panel display.
The front paper feeder is designed for printing on poster board and heavyweight fine art paper that is too thick for the rear paper feeder. It is also used for printing on coated CDs or DVDs, for which a special holder is provided. (We didn’t test this feature.)
There’s also an input slot in the rear of the printer for printing on roll paper or canvas. It’s covered by a lightweight panel when the slot is not in use. It flips down when you need to plug in the optional SC-P906 roll paper unit.
Prompts are displayed on the control panel to show users the media types, sizes and feed slot as well as the maximum number of sheets you can stack in the feeder. This feature is useful for minimising the risk of using incorrect settings. The printer will also ‘remember’ previous settings you’ve used saving you time when scrolling through the options available.
The printer driver is essentially the same as previous models and hasn’t changed substantially for many years so if you choose to print via a computer – as most readers will probably do – you’ll be in familiar territory. You should also use the media settings in the printer’s menu and set parameters on the control panel for media type and size in order to avoid any possible conflicts. The touch-screen makes this process very easy.
‘Canned’ profiles are provided for a number of paper types, including plain paper, photo papers (glossy, lustre and matte) and Epson’s most popular ‘fine art’ media, including canvas. A slightly wider range of profiles is available in the driver software than you’ll find in the printer’s menu, although that has plenty of options.
The driver interface for the SC-P906 when printing through a Windows computer.
Readers are advised to pay attention to the Level settings in the driver’s dropdown menu, which provide adjustments for output quality and printing speed. Both can be important. While we usually uncheck the High Speed box to ensure good print quality, you will probably find situations where you can leave it checked and see no visible difference in the end result.
While it should generally be checked when you print high-key images, for images with an all-over average tonal balance, differences between leaving it checked and unchecking it should be unnoticeable. Similarly, selecting the Level 5 quality setting will lay down much more ink than the Level 3 setting.
With B&W prints there’s an increased risk of gloss differential and/or bronzing at such a high setting so we agree with Keith Cooper’s recommendations to use Level 3 for monochrome work. The Max Quality (Carbon Black) setting will produce the highest black density but it only works with glossy media and should not be used for B&W prints.
The new Black Enhance Overcoat setting is also only used with glossy, semi-gloss and metallic media and will grey out when matte media are used. This function increases the density of blacks in prints by overcoating the darkest areas with light grey to increase the dynamic range. We’d caution against using it for every print as it really chews up the light grey ink and you may not see any difference in the end results.
Epson Print Layout is accessed via the Automate setting in Photoshop’s File dropdown menu.
Purchasers of this printer can access a free download of Epson’s Print Layout software, which has a more output-focused interface and can work as a plugin with Photoshop and is accessed via the Automate (shown above). We downloaded this software and tried it out but decided it was just as easy to use the printer driver for most prints.
B&W printing adjustments in Epson Print Layout, which provides direct access to the Advanced B&W Printing mode.
Where it did prove useful was for making B&W prints because it includes the Advanced B&W Printing mode on the main page, instead of requiring users to open it separately. Another potential use is for the Gallery Wrap setting, which will print faint fold lines around the border of an image on canvas that will be stretched over a wooden frame for display purposes.
The Gallery Wrap function in Epson Print Layout.
Borderless printing is available for a wide range of papers and, as usual, some cropping will occur when you try to fit an image onto a sheet of paper with a different aspect ratio. Printing through Photoshop lets you choose between ‘Borderless retain size’ and ‘Borderless auto expand’ settings but Epson Print Layout only provides an auto setting, which will crop the image.
The User Defined paper size menu allows you to print on non-standard paper sizes and supports panoramic printing on sheet and roll paper. Dimensions can be set in inches or millimetres for widths between 210 and 431.8 mm and heights from 55 to 18,000 mm so you can make super-sized prints up to the width of the paper (431.8 mm).
When you’re making large prints and one or more cartridges are running low, the control panel will pause operation and display the warning shown above. It’s safe to override this warning and press the Proceed button a few times until the printer refuses to print any longer and you have to install a fresh cartridge.
Sadly, the display doesn’t indicate WHICH cartridge needs to be replaced so if a few cartridges have similarly low levels you’re left to decide via trial and error. The ink monitor associated with the driver is a bit more precise, showing depleted cartridges with a superimposed cross on the display. The Stylus Pro 3880, which preceded the P906 by a few generations, got this functions right so there’s really no excuse for this flaw in the latest printer.
The printer driver contains the usual list of ‘canned profiles’ with drop-down sub-menus covering Photo, Proofing, Matte, Fine Art, Plain papers and Canvas. Individual papers in each category are listed in the sub-menus. Epson’s Media Installer software is available to provide an easy way to install profiles for various media from both Epson and third-party manufacturers (although most third-party profiles these days are easy to install).
It’s also designed to allow easy installation of user-created profiles, for readers who own devices like the ColorMunki or X-Rite i1 Studio. With previous models we have found these profiles to be accurate and they produced excellent results with Epson’s media so we chose not to bother with this additional step.
Interestingly, when we carried out some tests with standard printer test images using the ‘Printer Manages Colours’ setting in Photoshop, we found some results were disappointing, with low colour saturation and reduced contrast. The same images printed when the ‘Photoshop Manages Colours’ option was selected produced much better looking results, even though we used the same Epson media profiles as those stored in the computer when the driver software was loaded. We have no idea why this occurred and whether it was a flaw in the image file or in the profile handling system.
Fortunately, the third-party profiles we downloaded for Ilford papers worked faultlessly when used through Photoshop. But we hit an obstacle when we set out to print images on Canson Infinity PhotoArt ProCanvas Water Resistant 395g/m² canvas because no profile for this medium was available via Canson’s website. Fortunately (inspired by some shrewd advice from a staff member at Kayell in Sydney who sent us instructions for commissioning a custom profile) we set the Photoshop profile to Epson Matte Canvas (which is included in the driver download) and the paper setting on the control panel to Epson Archival Matte paper (the closest match of only two options provided) and the end results were everything we’d hoped for. In time Canson will probably catch up and provide downloadable profiles for the P906 and its smaller sibling, the P706 (although they’ll be listed under P900 and P700, respectively).
A number of reports have appeared online criticising the amount of ink used in setting up the printer. To some degree there is validity in these criticisms, although the real situation is nowhere near as bad as some posters make out. But yes, Epson should take a serious look at how much ink is used during printer set-up.
Extracting roughly 30 ml of ink from each 50 ml cartridge not only looks wasteful; it IS wasteful and requires attention. The rapid filling of the maintenance box confirms that wastefulness and, even though a replacement box is provided it’s not a good look in today’s customers’ eyes.
While using the printer we found the amount of ink remaining after setup was enough to make a fair number of prints (see below). Ongoing testing confirmed subsequent ink usage was relatively modest and much as you would expect from a printer of this type but not meriting any plaudits.
The first low ink warning popped up after we had made four A3+ and two A3 prints, although a quick glance at the ink monitor showed plenty of ink remained available. The second low ink warning, which appeared after seven more A3 prints, showed minimal changes in the levels of most cartridges but a significant drop in the Light Grey (LGY) cartridge, although some ink remained.
The first and second low ink warning displays. Note the change in the Light Grey ink level, which was probably caused by over-use of the Max. Carbon Black setting.
Like its predecessors, the P906 has a user-replaceable maintenance cartridge, and new printers come with a cartridge already installed. The review printer posted the first warning after we have made four A3+ prints and five A3 prints (all with white margins).
Maintenance box replacement.
Subsequent warnings appeared after a further three more A3 prints. No indicator was provided to show the capacity remaining in the maintenance box and, since we had two replacements (one is supplied with the printer), we replaced it at this point.
The first forced cartridge replacement. Note the red box in the upper right corner and the cross on the relevant ink line.
The LGY cartridge ran out after 12 more A3 prints and the printer would not continue until the cartridge has been replaced. At this point, we had covered just over 1.5 square metres of paper. As you can see from the ink monitor display above, none of the other cartridges was depleted.
Another low ink warning appeared when the Grey (G) cartridge was also very low but we were able to continue printing. We replaced the grey cartridge after repeated warnings suggested it was necessary, although on weighing the cartridge we removes we found that roughly six grams of ink remained unused. Readers should note that to get the maximum amount of ink from each cartridge they will have to get used to ignoring repeated ‘Replace Cartridge’ messages on the printer’s control panel and via the ink monitor display until the printer triggers forced replacement and stops printing. Again, not exactly desirable.
The ink monitor displays at the beginning and end of our tests; the lower display covers all the cartridges that were replaced during the tests. Note: the Violet cartridge was not replaced.
In the course of our tests we covered a total area of just under 6.9 square metres of paper and canvas with ink. During that time, we replaced all the cartridges except the Violet (V) one. The ink monitor displays at the beginning and end of our tests are shown above for comparison.
It’s difficult to give precise figures for printing costs because we don’t know exactly how much ink was used up during setup and ink usage will vary with the density of pigments applied (more with low-key images and less with high-key ones). Our rough calculations, based upon a street price for cartridges of AU$54 each, suggest the following average ink costs for prints with typical white margins:
A4 with 10 mm margins = approx. $1.50
A3 with 15 mm margins = approx. $2.45
A3+ with 15 mm margins = approx. $3.90
A2 with 15 mm margins = approx. $4.93
The SureColor SC-P906 is not a fast printer, being designed to prioritise quality over speed. Printing times will be influenced by three factors: the quality level, whether the High Speed box is checked and whether the Max. ‘Carbon Black’ or Black Enhance Overcoat options are applied. In addition, the time it takes to produce prints will vary with the output size and how much ink is deposited.
The printer offers five quality levels spanning two resolution settings. Levels 2 to 3 output at 1440 x 1440 dpi while Levels 4 and 5 output at 5760 x 1440 dpi. For most images it was difficult, if not impossible to see any difference between Levels 3 and 4 and 4 and 5, although fine detail is slightly better resolved with one of the higher settings.
We recorded the following average times for the different output sizes we tested:
A4 sheet at Quality 3 on glossy paper with High Speed checked and no overcoats: 1 minute, 55 seconds;
A4 sheet at Quality 3 on glossy paper with High Speed unchecked: Black Enhance Overcoat on: 6 minutes 58 seconds;
A4 sheet at Quality 4 on glossy paper with High Speed unchecked and no overcoats: 4 minutes, 15 seconds;
A4 sheet at Quality 5 (Max. ‘Carbon Black’) on glossy paper with High Speed unchecked: 13 minutes, 39 seconds;
A3 sheet on Archival Matte paper at Quality 3 with High Speed on: 3 minutes 43 seconds;
A3 sheet on Archival Matte paper at Quality 4 with High Speed off: 8 minutes 25 seconds;
A3+ sheet on Premium Semigloss, Quality 5 (Max. ‘Carbon Black’) with High Speed off: 21 minutes;
A3+ sheet on Archival Matte, Quality 4 (5760 x 1440 dpi) with High Speed checked: 13 minutes 12 seconds;
A2 sheet on Premium Semigloss, Quality 4 with High Speed checked, Black Enhance Overcoat checked : 18 minutes 11 seconds;
A2 sheet on Premium Semigloss at Quality 4 with High Speed off: 28 minutes 8 seconds;
A2 (455 x 345 mm) on Premium Semigloss roll paper – Max quality (Carbon Black) with High Speed off; 30 minutes 58 seconds.
Add about 10% extra to these times if you opt for borderless prints.
A 575 x 402 mm print on canvas at Level 3, 1440 x 1440 dpi, MicroWeave on, High Speed checked, Finest Detail: 10 minutes 46 seconds;
A 1002 x 335 mm print on canvas – Level 4, 1440 x 1440 dpi, MicroWeave on, High Speed unchecked, Finest Detail: 23 minutes 47 seconds.
We’re at the point in printer development where output quality is more likely to be determined by the skill of the user than the capabilities of the printer. That said, the SC-P906 is capable of delivering truly excellent prints when used by a skilled operator.
A lot depends on selecting the right printer settings, which is why the driver interface is important for anyone who buys the P906. It’s vital to select the settings that best suit the image you’re printing.
For colour images, we’d advise users to be sparing in their use of the Max. ‘Carbon Black’ setting, firstly because its effects are only visible on some images and secondly because it chews up the grey inks. Experiment with test strip prints if you have any doubts.
We also found no visible differences between the Level 4 and Level 5 settings and the differences between Level 3 and Level 4 were barely discernible in most of the prints we made. Again, it’s worth experimenting with your own images before committing to large prints.
Black and white prints worked best with the Level 3 setting, which was able to resolve fine details but kept ink coverage levels modest to minimise bronzing and gloss differential. Both can be seen in prints at higher quality settings, although you have to look hard to find them with Level 4 prints (and know what to look for).
Using the Roll Paper Unit
The roll paper unit is motorised, unlike similar accessories for previous A2 and A3+ desktop printers, which use the paper drive motors to pull the media through the printer. The paper rolls are loaded into a ‘cradle’ with drive rollers at its base and adjustable edge guides, which can slide inwards when 13-inch rolls of media are used. Tensioning rollers inside the lid keep the roll in place once the lid has been closed. It takes a minute or so to pull the media into position, a process you can keep track of via the control panel.
Although a printed, multi-lingual guide should be included with the P906’s roll paper unit, Epson hadn’t published online instructions for fitting and using it when this review was carried out and the printed guide is very basic. We’d advise readers to watch Keith Cooper’s YouTube video which covers installing the unit, loading the paper and cutting it (since the printer doesn’t include a cutter). It’s much more comprehensive than the printed instructions. It’s all well presented and easy to understand.
The roll paper unit isn’t as robustly built as the P906 printer and its lift-up cover felt quite flimsy, although it worked well enough with both types of roll media we used (Premium Semigloss paper and Canson Infinity PhotoArt ProCanvas Water Resistant 395g/m² canvas). The printer displays guides to loading and unloading media on its screen and gives you the option to print a cutting line on the media to help you make a straight cut that will ensure the paper loads easily the next time you use the roll. We’d recommend using this feature to ensure the media loads easily the next time it is used.
If you start with a new roll of paper, it should load easily enough. The process takes a couple of minutes as the printer pulls the paper in and sets it in position.
But if the paper has been used before and the cut edge isn’t totally straight be prepared to re-cut the edge and reload. The printer will post messages on its display screen that tell you what to do. Watch for possible misalignment if the paper loosens on the roll; you may need to remove the roll and tap one end gently on a desktop to restore alignment.
Once you’ve made a print, the screen will display messages telling you to cut or cut and eject the paper. Selecting ‘cut’ pushes the paper forward to give you space to cut off the print (wallpaper scissors are ideal for the task). Selecting ‘cut and eject’ will push the paper out of the printer and back into the roll paper holder after it’s been cut, enabling you to remove the roll.
The only issue we had with using the roll paper unit was that a couple of times it ejected more paper than was really necessary. When the paper was retracted after cutting, more than a metre of it remained hanging out of the front of the printer and we could find no effective way to retract it in either the printer’s menu or the printed instructions. (Epson should work on a solution to this problem, given the high price of media.)
For potential buyers, the question arises: do you need to print on roll paper? If you make a lot of long panorama prints the answer is probably yes. The same could apply if you want to print on canvas since the highest-quality canvas is easiest to source on rolls.
But printing on roll paper may not save you much when it comes to time and money. There’s a fair amount of wastage involved and it’s not made easier by the lack of any way to rewind the media if it gets spat out too far. Loading and unloading rolls is also more time-consuming than loading sheets of paper.
You may also have issues with flattening the prints, especially if the paper has been stored for a while, which tends to lock in a degree of curvature. Flattening prints made with pigment inks can be tricky since the inks sit on the surface of the paper and are easily scraped off.
Then there’s the issue of what you plan to do with the prints – but that’s another story.
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Printer type: Thermal inkjet
Carriage width: A2+ (431.8 mm or 17 inch)
Print head: Epson Micro Piezo with uni & bi-directional modes
Nozzle configuration: 180 per colour
Minimum droplet size: 1.5 picolitres
Ink system: UltraChrome Pro10 aqueous all-pigment inks
Ink cartridges: MK, PK, GY, LGY, C, VM, LC, VLM, Y, V
Cartridge capacity: 50 ml per cartridge
Resolution: 5760 x 1440 optimised dpi
Media handling: Cut sheet & roll media (with optional accessory), printable optical disks
Media sizes: 89 x 127 mm to 329 x 950mm sheets, 13″ (330.2mm) to 17″ (432mm) wide with 2″ or 3″ core (optional) rolls (max roll diameter 150mm), standard CD/DVD printable optical media
Max. paper thickness: Regular sheet feeder – 0.50 mm; Front Thick Paper Path – 0.5 to 0.7 mm; Front Straight Path – 0.7 to 1.5 mm; Roll Paper Path – 0.08 to 0.70 mm
Control panel: 4.3-inch touch-screen colour LCD
Interfaces: Hi-Speed USB 3.0, Ethernet 10Base-T / 100Base-TX, Wi-Fi 5 (IEEE802.11 b/g/n/ac), Wi-Fi Direct, direct printing to mobile devices via Epson Print Layout app
Power consumption: 24W Operating / 1.1W Sleep / 0.18W Off
Acoustic noise: 41 dB (operating)
Dimensions (wxhxd): 615 x 368 x 199mm (storage); 615 x 902 x 521mm (in use)
Weight: 14.7 kg (excludes consumables)
In the box: SureColor P906 Printer, 10 ‘High-capacity’ 50ml ink cartridges, AC power cable, Set Up Guide, User Manual/driver/utility software CD
Distributor: Epson Australia; (02) 8899 3666
- Build: 8.8
- Features: 8.9
- Print quality: 9.0
- Print speed: 8.5